The Complete Robot

Isaac Asimov
The Complete Robot Cover

The Complete Robot


Some Non-human Robots

"A Boy's Best Friend" -Boy gets dog but wants to keep robot dog, and really is there any difference?

"Sally" - Quite enjoyed this one. A story about sentient cars and self defence. A bit of a clichéd end in the idea of 'what if the cars realise they are slaves and start to fight back'. Contains a scene what I can only describe as 'car rape' - powerful stuff and cleverly done.

"Someday" - If toys had feelings....

Some Immobile Robots

"Point of View" - A story considering a computer like a child.

"Think!" - A lot of hard science babble until we get to the idea of a computer enabling telepathy before the computer develops the idea of thought.

"True Love" - Quite liked this one. Have you seen the movie 'Electric Dreams'? A gentleman I found disagreeable seeks a partner via his computer. The perspective of women in this story is completely ignored.

Some Metallic Robots

"Robot AL-76 Goes Astray" - A robot should be on the moon and is on Earth and it just wants to work...

"Victory Unintentional" - Really enjoyed this story. Robots land on Jupiter to investigate an aggressive warlike race intent on proving their superiority. Interesting look at bluff, double bluff and perception

"Stranger in Paradise" - Really interesting scenario which seems to add nothing but flavour to the central story. In this world it is considered pretty unusual / freakish for siblings to share both parents and consequently look similar. That said, that isn't the main thread of the story which considers putting a robot on Mercury but controlling it from Earth with a 'brainlike' computer. Explores themes of autism somewhat unsatisfactorily at times.

"Light Verse" - Cute story - don't touch my robot or I WILL kill you.... Continues the theme in many stories of not tampering with 'broken' robots.

"Segregationist" - An interesting take on heart transplants with a message which I'm not sure is purporting a form of racial purity or at least pride in one's own species.

"Robbie" - Another story about a child's love for their robot and integration into the family. Quite similar to 'A Boy's best friend'.

Some Humanoid Robots

"Let's Get Together" - Decent story about the race for tech in a future Cold War. A belief that the East has advanced in Robotics threatens the balance of power.

"Mirror Image" - Human intuition challenges the three laws of robotics. Not much to this one really.

"The Tercentenary Incident" - For security reasons one puts a robot in the place of the President. An assassination attempt occurs. The question is 'can a robot be a better President?'

Powell and Donovan

"First Law" - Didn't do much for me this one.

"Runaround" - Not feeling much for the Powell and Donovan characters - just unlikeable. This story has a runaround the laws of robotics

"Reason" - Can a robot run a space station better than a human - if the station is God it can.

"Catch That Rabbit" - Another one I couldn't get into it. Maybe I'm not in a 'good reading place' but these stories just annoy me.

Susan Calvin

"Liar!" - So we are into the first of the Susan Calvin stories of which there are 10 in this collection. My initial impressions are not much. She seems quite a weak and bitter character who of course has female 'weaknesses' exploited. A robot can read minds and since it cannot harm a human tells humans exactly what they want to hear, rather than the truth. Susan's unrequited affection for a colleague is exploited.

"Satisfaction Guaranteed" - One of the better stories in the anthology. A housewife is brought home a prototype robot to help around the home. After some early doubts she quickly realises how valuable he can be. There is an idea in here about how the robot helps her to be happy in other ways.

"Lenny" - Bit weird this one. A robot is tampered with and consequently has a brain like a 'baby' which can be taught. Calvin 'mothers' this robot. I find Asimov to be quite clumsy in his treatment of women.

"Galley Slave" - Another good story involving a proof reading robot and a court case and fears of what humanity robots could replace.

"Little Lost Robot" - Great story about a robot who manages to 'lose' itself. The robot has been modified perspective of 'First Law'.

"Risk" - A follow on from the previous story with the same characters. I'm getting into the Calvin stories now and can see that Asimov had an idea of how he was going with her.

"Escape!" - A clever robot learns how to take humans into hyperspace. Powell and Donovan sadly make a comeback.

"Evidence" - Quite liked this one. A brilliant District Attorney is smeared by a rival accusing him of being a robot. Of course this is absurd but enough clues are there to make the reader at least reconsider. Does an application of the Three Laws prove the case for the Attorney or the rival?

"The Evitable Conflict" - Robots control the world's industry and economy and war and conflicts but then a few things seem out of kilter. A little bit disconcerting in that would we prefer for all decision making to be undertaken by robots if it meant that we were all happier for it.

"Feminine Intuition" - A theme through much of Asimov's writing is that of men making all key decisions and male humans impact on science. Although Calvin is a highly developed and intelligent character she's pretty much on her own as a sole female voice. Well, we have a 'female' robot here that works out which planet could have sentient life. I can't work out if Asimov is a massive sexist or if he is a product of his time. Even though an out of retirement Calvin is proved correct in the assumptions of male humans I did the tone and content pretty sexist. The Calvin stories overall though are really good and are a good collection.

Two Climaxes

"...That Thou Art Mindful of Him" - The robot series takes a different turn here and is a natural extension of the 'intuitive' robot in the last story. One of the things that has disconcerted me a little about the robot series is the superiority of humanity - it's almost as though other species (and potentially alien life) has no value. It could be argued that the robots are nothing more than slaves. Writing in the era were civil rights were still a big issue in America I'm sure these stories had significant more power to Black readers. This story examines what it is to be human and what is of value to humans. I loved how Asimov resolved this.

"The Bicentennial Man" - In this story a robot strives to be free and ultimately to be a man.

A Last Word